6 things to watch for in Texas' big Saturday matchup with LSU

Sam Ehlinger smiles as he runs into the endzone for a touchdown against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter of the 2018 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 6, 2018 in Dallas, Texas.

HOUSTONBy Jake Meltzer/Contributor

The No. 6 LSU Tigers will travel across the Louisiana-Texas border Saturday to take on the No. 9 Texas Longhorns in one of the Horns' most hyped up games in the last decade.

Lee Corso and the College Game Day crew will be in town and DKR is expected to have a plethora of purple and gold in the crowd. Despite that, the Longhorns are confident coming into this powerhouse match-up against Coach O's Tigers. 

When asked about the hype surrounding this LSU team, Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando reassured the media that Texas' focus was on their own preparation and said, "It's all about us."

Despite injuries, Texas came out strong last week on both sides of the ball and handed Louisiana Tech a loss. They know LSU will be a tougher opponent, but the Longhorns expect nothing less than a victory this week. With all that in mind, here are some other key tidbits to keep an eye on going into Saturday's game. 

1. Thin Backfield

With second-string running back Jordan Whittington being the latest injury victim, Roschon Johnson and linebacker convert David Gbenda are listed as the number 2 and 3 backs on the Texas depth chart. Gbenda was expected to be more of an emergency back, but Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, "he is still learning."

Herman confirmed in a press conference after practice on Thursday that Mason Ramirez will likely be the third emergency back if something happens to Ingram or Johnson. Beck expressed his confidence in Johnson calling him "a very special athlete" and said that he feels "comfortable with {Roschon]" when he has the ball. He said that Ingram will likely play more, but it appears that his confidence in Johnson increases the probability that he will see the field a little more this week as well.

2. It's Been Awhile

Texas and LSU are about to face off for the first time since the 2003 Cotton Bowl, a game in which LSU was ranked No. 9, while Texas was in the No. 6 spot. Mack Brown and the Longhorns won that game 35-20. The head coach for LSU at the time? A man by the name of Nick Saban. Texas got the best of LSU in that 2003 Cotton Bowl match-up, which at the time was a top-notch New Year's Day bowl game.

Texas finished 11-2 that season and LSU went on to win the National Championship the following year with Saban. These two teams have a history of greatness and high expectations.

3. Texas Defensive Backs

There is no question that the Texas defense is in for a tougher match-up this weekend when 6'4'' quarterback Joe Burrow is on the other side of the field. Burrow completed 23 of his 27 passes last week for 278 yards and five touchdowns. Texas players were seen sporting "DBU" shirts earlier this week (which stands for Defensive Back University), but guys have assured the media that the shirt is a tribute to past Longhorn greats rather than a shot at LSU. 

In a press conference on Wednesday, Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando compared the LSU offense to their own by calling them a "low-risk" offense that throws the ball "efficiently" but still has the "ground and pound." He noted that the Longhorns missed some perimeter tackles in the game, but was proud of the way they played. Texas is going to have to wrap-up and make tackles to avoid letting the Tigers extend anymore plays. Like Orlando said and as we saw last week in LSU's 55-3 route of Georgia Southern, this LSU offense makes every play count. In order for Texas to win this game, they cannot give the Tigers second chances and easy points.

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AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 31: Sam Ehlinger #11 of the Texas Longhorns looks to pass in the third quarter against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

4. LSU Confident and Vocal

Texas wore their "DBU" shirts earlier this week, but there hasn't been much chatter out of the Texas locker room in regards to their opponent. On the other side, a few LSU players have publicly expressed their confidence heading into this weekend. 

When asked about the upcoming match-up, LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson stated that he thinks this weekend is going to be a "good game," but laughed at the idea of the Longhorns thinking they have a shot at a win. Here is more from that interview.

LSU linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. also took to Twitter to express his confidence in the Tigers.

5. Best of the Best

The play of Sam Ehlinger and Joe Burrow is likely to have a significant impact in the outcome of this game. While Ehlinger expectations were arguably a little higher coming into the season, there are two very talented Heisman candidates who will be facing off in Saturday's game looking to improve to 2-0.

When asked about quarterback Burrow, Texas defensive coordinator Orlando said Burrow reminds him "a lot of our guy," in reference to Ehlinger. Last time Ehlinger faced an SEC opponent? The Sugar Bowl against Georgia and all Ehlinger did was lead the Horns to a win over a great defense. Will he do the same this weekend?

Current Heisman Odds
- Ehlinger (7th): 20-1
- Burrow (11th): 40-1

6. Herman: Confident and Cool

Herman spoke in a very unconcerned tone after practice on Thursday when he talked about his team's preparation for LSU. He had high praise for the Tigers and their quarterback Burrow, but said the Longhorns had a "really good week" and are going to "approach [Saturday] just like any big game." Herman knows LSU will be a tough match-up even for his talented team. When asked what Texas needs to do to come out with a win, he calmly said, "Do what [we] do…but a little more of it." 

At the end of his press conference, Herman told reporters that he "likes testing [the team] early," in reference to the Week 2 match-up against the country's 6th best team. Herman is aware of the difficulty of this game, but is confident in the men in burnt orange. He said the team has already put their season-opening victory behind them, as "[they] do not believe in momentum…good or bad." From the sounds of it, it appears as if this Longhorn team is ready to play arguably the most talked-about-game in the Ehlinger Era.